Gun rights advocates won a major victory in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday as the concealed carry reciprocity legislation that has been bitterly opposed by gun control lobbying groups passed on a bipartisan vote of 231-198.
Chris Cox, executive director, National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, immediately released a statement applauding the victory.
“This vote marks a watershed moment for Second Amendment rights,” Cox said. “The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act is the culmination of a 30-year movement recognizing the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves, and their loved ones, including when they cross state lines.”
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Passage of the bill did not come without some drama. In the hours leading up to the Wednesday vote, some in the gun rights movement actually argued over tenets of the bill.
The bill, H.R. 38, ensures that those Americans who can legally carry a concealed firearm in one state will legally be able to do so in every other state, NRA said.
The legislation also makes improvements to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
“This bill ensures that all law-abiding citizens in our great country can protect themselves in the manner they see fit without accidentally running afoul of the law. We now call on the Senate to take up and pass this critical legislation,” Cox observed.
Also commenting on the Capitol Hill victory was Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
“We’re one step closer to fully restoring the Second Amendment as it was originally intended,” Gottlieb stated. “Now, if the Senate can follow the House lead and pass this measure, law abiding American gun owners will no longer have to fear wrongful arrest and even imprisonment for having a firearm for personal protection as they travel from state to state.”
Other gun rights leaders are also weighing in.
“Millions of law-abiding gun owners are right now applauding the work of Congressman Richard Hudson and all who have played a part in passing this important legislation in the U.S. House. Americans’ Constitutional rights should not end at state lines, which is why concealed carry reciprocity is both common-sense and long overdue,” said Tim Schmidt, Founder and President of the United States Concealed Carry Association.
“With House passage today of H.R. 38, we have cleared a major hurdle toward what will be two major achievements for America’s law-abiding gun owners and for our federally-licensed firearms retailers,” added Lawrence Keane, senior vice president and general counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “This legislation provides a solution to the confusing patchwork of concealed carry laws and ensures that our citizens’ Second Amendment rights do not end at the state line.”
NSSF is the industry umbrella group that was pushing for the “Fix NICS” reform legislation.
“Federally licensed firearms retailers rely upon the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to be accurate in preventing the sale and transfer of firearms to prohibited persons,” Keane said.
A half-dozen Democrats crossed the aisle to vote with the GOP majority, while more than a dozen Republicans voted against the measure.
The vote came after a one-hour debate that saw opponents repeat familiar arguments that this legislation will allow violent criminals to cross state lines with concealed handguns, ignoring the fact that this is already happening. The differing laws of each state prohibit legally-licensed, honest citizens from bring their guns across state lines unless those states have existing reciprocity agreements.
Many Democrats opposing the measure brought up mass shootings including Sandy Hook, Las Vegas and The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, but failed to acknowledge that none of these incidents involved legal concealed carry across state lines.
Opponents including Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) contended that this measure will put more guns on the street. Democrat Steny Hoyer (D-MD) contended that passage of the bill will make the country less safe. Virtually all of the opposition contended that the nation is suffering from “an epidemic of violence.”
But Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) bluntly commented that “My friends on the other side do not like the Second Amendment. They wish it wasn’t there.”
Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz wondered why Democrats are “so afraid” of legally-armed Americans exercising their rights.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary who led the floor fight in support of the measure, introduced a letter signed by 23 state attorneys general in support of the legislation.
Not all Democrats lined up against the measure, either. Democrat Henry Cuellar of Texas not only supported the measure, he was a co-sponsor and urged his colleagues to vote for passage.
Concealed carry reciprocity is a divisive subject and it became a campaign issue in 2016 when then-candidate Donald Trump indicated his support of the idea. If the bill survives the Senate and lands on his desk, he is expected to sign.